NaNoTeaMo, Day 11: “A Teenjure and Tealet Tea Tale”
I have an unwritten rule for Facebook: “If I’ve never talked to you before, chances are I won’t accept your friend request.”
Through my other tea-centric social media accounts, I come in contact with a lot of industry professionals from around the world. Most have no clue what my role is in the industry. Many don’t even speak my language. And some don’t even know who I am. Tea bloggers are – at best – a peripheral presence.
Exclusive as that all may sound, I do allow for exceptions. Nabin Koirala is one such exception.
Like a few others, he sent a friend request. I looked at our mutual contacts and accepted it. Unlike many others, though, he made it a point to send me a greeting.
At first, he thought I was a tea vendor. I had to lament to him that I held no such prestige; I was but a humble blogger. Even after hearing that, though, we still kept chatting about some of our favorite teas. And that conversation endeared him to me.
I learned later that he was the marketing coordinator for an outfit called The Teenjure Cooperative. They were a collective of small gardens (and a factory) based in the town of Phakphok, located in the Ilam District of Eastern Nepal. Ilam is the tea growing region of Nepal, and such cooperatives were fast becoming commonplace in the country. Small growers teaming up under a common umbrella, which were then – in turn – formed into a larger federation, were often seen as a more sustainable tea industry model. One rivaling even the likes of India’s old tea estate infrastructure.
By sheer coincidence, while at World Tea Expo in May, I learned that Team Tealet had connected with Nabin.
Not only that, but they archived their trip for posterity as part of their Amazing Tea Race series. While attending one of their house parties, Tealet’s resident sprite – Rie – gifted me with one of the wares produced by a farmer within the Teenjure group. The tea was dubbed “Brown Oolong”; simple and to-the-point. It was grown by one Biren Subba.
Unfortunately, I didn’t dive into the unigue oolong until . . . well . . . tonight, actually. With a title like Brown Oolong, I was expecting something rough, burly and roasted once I opened the bag. What I encountered was on the other side of the spectrum.
The leaves were small to medium cut, ranging from brown to tippy beige. And the aroma they gave off was pure . . . candy. Well, at the very least, very sweet grapes – maybe even icewine grape levels of sweetness. Point being, I’m not sure where the “brown” moniker came into play, aside from the color, and I didn’t care. Gods, this looked good!
For brewing, I went with a simple Western approach . . . with a twist. Instead of going with a typical steeper cup, I opted for my oolong-oriented Melon yixing pot.
For reasons (none of them logical), I was in the mood to do it that way. I infused a (albeit eye-balled) teaspoon of leaves in boiled water for three minutes.
The liquor brewed – big surprise – brown, and the aroma was all chestnutty with a back-whiff of cherry blossoms dipped in honey. Or at least what I imagined that would be like. The flavor was also very “brown”. The forefront delivered a light, roasty slap to the sip, rounded out by a sweet caress of a top note, and a fruity bow on the finish. The aftertaste left a lingering, comfortably toasty feeling on my tongue.
I want to visit Teenjure and mind-meld with everyone. The entire co-op.
And discover all their roasty-toasty-oolongy secrets. Uh . . . with Nabin’s permission, of course.
All this was started by a random encounter over Facebook. My world is small and delicious, but the tales are tall. And also delicious. That’s all I’ve got.